In The Know: Panel proposes tax hike on poor and middle class to benefit the wealthiest

by | January 3rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the tax reform task force recommended more cuts to the top income tax rate, partially paid for by ending broad-based tax credits relied on by hundreds of thousands of low and moderate income Oklahomans. The latest Census numbers show that the income gap between whites and non-whites in Oklahoma has grown. OK Policy previously released a fact sheet on the black-white unemployment gap, which is a major contributor to the income gap. Two Oklahoma centers for the developmentally disabled are preparing to close down because the state does not have money to repair the aging facilities.

The Tulsa Initiative Blog examines how we can move from good child care to quality early learning. $20 million in federal roads funds are at risk because Oklahoma has not complied with new safety requirements for commercial truck drivers. A study sponsored by Oklahoma and Kansas has developed a plan for expanding passenger rail service to Kansas City. House and Senate Appropriations Chairs said repairs to the Capitol building would be first in line for a bond issue this year, but they would only favor it if it went to a vote of the people.

Incidents of suicide in Tulsa have reached a record high. The DHS Commission will meet Wednesday to discuss amendments to DHS’ settlement over foster care abuses made by the Governor and legislative leaders. The nomination of Oklahoma City Assistant U.S. Attorney Arvo Mikkanen to a federal judgeship appears to be dead after the Senate refused to act. The Tulsa World discussed two good arguments for collecting online sales taxes.

The Number of the Day is the expected amount of revenue that will be collected through the state’s personal income tax next year. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline examines the new approach by the Obama administration to give states more flexibility in defining “essential benefits” that must be covered by insurance under the new health care law.

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Task Force proposes tax hike on poor and middle class to benefit the wealthiest

by | December 30th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (5)

This afternoon, the Senate Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform released its final report. The most significant recommendation is to make further cuts to the top rate and replace that revenue by ending numerous tax credits. Almost two-thirds of the tax benefits targeted for elimination do not go to special interests or favored industries, but to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers below a certain income level in order to offset regressive sales and property taxes. They would also end the personal exemption, which reduces the tax liability for every household in Oklahoma.

This proposal is a bad deal for hardworking Oklahomans. Doing away with broad-based tax benefits like the personal exemption, earned income tax credit, and sales tax relief credit in exchange for a cut in the top income tax rate would actually increase taxes for a majority of Oklahomans. This would hit hardest the poor and middle class families who are struggling most to make ends meet in a tough economy.

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Upcoming Event: Benchmarking Asset Development in Fighting Poverty, January 12th

by | December 30th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security, Poverty, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

Assets mean economic security.  Yet impoverished families frequently lack the means to build assets.  Some are even sanctioned by public assistance programs from accumulating the wealth they need to escape poverty.  Oklahoma earned a “C” grade from the Corporation for Enterprise Development in a national report ranking states on opportunities for wealth creation and protection, particularly for low-income residents.  That same report says 23 percent of Oklahoma households are asset poor, lacking sufficient net worth to subsist at the poverty level for three months if their income was disrupted.

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Growing disconnect between budget politics and reality

by | December 29th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

Last week we reported that next year’s revenues are expected to be 7 percent below their levels of six years ago (FY ’07), even though costs are higher due to inflation, population growth, and increased caseloads

Elsewhere, people seem to have read a different budget estimate than the one we saw. Two elements of the discussion show a growing disconnect between Oklahoma’s budgetary politics and reality.

First, Governor Mary Fallin and many others continue to advocate for reduction or elimination of the state income tax. A closer look at the budget shows that, of the $400 million forecast revenue growth from FY ’11 to FY ’13, fully  half comes from the income tax. Overall, the income tax is expected to provide $2.5 billion next year for General Revenue, the HB 1017 Education Reform Fund, and the ROADS Fund, which has helped restore the worst of our roads and bridges. Cutting this vital revenue support makes no budget sense. It also makes no economic sense.

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New insurance rule throws the baby out with the bathwater

by | December 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (24)

As the Affordable Care Act is implemented across the nation, states have taken varying approaches to making sure coverage is available for all children.  While most states have done a good job maintaining and ensuring the availability of health insurance for kids, Oklahoma has taken an enormous step backwards by changing state law to restrict coverage for newborns and babies.  This post explains the series of events leading up to a recent move by the Insurance Commissioner to pass an unprecedented and short-sighted emergency rule that makes it impossible for some babies to get health insurance in the state.

Beginning in September 2010, the Affordable Care Act prohibited new health plans from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions.  In some instances, insurers withdrew from the child-only market rather than comply with the guaranteed issue rule.  It’s very important to note that this did not include policies that are sold to adults with children as dependents – just child-only policies sold on the individual market.  Such policies are often sold to parents whose employers don’t have coverage or to grandparents on Medicare who are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren.  In thirty-three states, caregivers are still able to access child-only plans.  In fact, some states had guaranteed-issue for children even before the federal health care law.

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Looking back: Our most popular blog posts of 2011

by | December 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Each year we try to rouse ourselves out of our post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s slumber long enough to pull together a Top 10 list of our most popular blog posts. As we said last year, if this organization, with its rich history dating all the way back to the early months of 2008, stands for anything, it stands for Tradition.  So without further ado: Our 10 blog posts that received the most hits in 2011. If you missed any of these the first time around, here’s another chance to take a look.

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In The Know: Revenue forecast shows potential $150M budget hole

by | December 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail. In the Know will be on break over the holidays and will resume January 3rd.

The Senate budget committee chair said tax cuts should still be on the table, even after news of a potential $150 million budget shortfall.  The OK Policy Blog explained that new revenue numbers show a slow, incomplete recovery that will fall far short of restoring key services to pre-downturn levels.  The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted to settle a federal class-action lawsuit against the state’s foster care system.

Gov. Fallin thinks repairing the crumbling state Capitol building should be a priority.  Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid said the city is wasting millions of dollars paying incentives to a company to move to Oklahoma City, when it was going to do so anyway.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out part of a new workers’ compensation law that excluded chiropractors from serving as medical examiners.

The OK Policy Blog shared some of our favorite Oklahoma bloggers.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Women’s Law Center reports that a female worker still makes 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man in a comparable job; the gap hasn’t budged in the last decade.  The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank among the states for percentage of women in the state legislature.

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Revenue forecast confirms need for caution

by | December 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (3)

On Tuesday, the Board of Equalization certified a preliminary estimate of the revenues available for next year’s budget. The numbers confirm that while the worst of the fiscal crisis is over, the state is experiencing a slow, incomplete recovery that will fall far short of restoring key services to pre-downturn levels.

The preliminary FY ’13 estimates, developed by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and Office of State Finance, will form the basis for the Governor’s Executive Budget that will be delivered in early February; the Board will meet again in mid-February to provide revised estimates that will be binding on the 2012 Legislature. As we see in the chart below, collections to the General Revenue (GR) fund are expected to continue their recovery next year from their collapse during the recession of 2008-09. Next year’s GR is estimated at $5,540 million, which is 19.9 percent greater than FY ’10.  Yet next year’s revenues are expected to remain 7 percent below their levels of six years ago (FY ’07), even as the cost of providing services rises due to inflation, population growth, and increased caseloads.

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Blogging about blogs

by | December 20th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (3)

Last year, we listed some of Oklahoma’s best politics and policy blogs of the left, right, and center. We shared 15 blogs that are written by Oklahomans, have a political or policy focus, and are likely to keep you informed, amused, enlightened or outraged. Follow the link to rediscover those blogs, most of which continue to post regularly.

Rather then repeat ourselves this time around, we are broadening our focus to look at blogs covering other aspects of Oklahoma. Some of these bloggers write about municipal issues that, while not always receiving as much attention as state and national politics, can have as much or more impact on our daily lives. Others drift farther from public policy, but they share some of the culture and entertainment (and food!) that bring our communities alive.

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In The Know: DHS considers settling class-action lawsuit over foster care

by | December 20th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that DHS commissioners may vote Tuesday to settle a federal class-action lawsuit over the agency’s care of foster children. A settlement could require the agency to reduce caseloads by hiring more child-welfare workers. Based on this month’s estimate on revenue projections for the 2013 fiscal year, lawmakers would have a budget shortfall of about $150 million. Personal income growth in Oklahoma slowed to just 0.2 percent last quarter.

A state task force on passenger rail service has not yet met, even though the legislation creating it would have put the first meeting in August. The Tulsa Community Action Project has won a $500,000 federal grant to help transform the poverty-stricken Kendall-Whittier and Eugene Field neighborhoods.

The OK Policy Blog examines what should be the government’s role in improving health care. Mike Fogarty, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said that Oklahoma has been contemplating many of the measures mandated by the Affordable Care Act since 1996. NewsOK praises Oklahoma’s use of federal grant money to upgrade voting machines.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s total export sales of tires, the state’s second most exported product. In today’s Policy Note, Ezra Klein shows that there is no clear example of a competition-based program substantially cutting health care costs.

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